Dempsey: War funding cuts would harm vital DOD spending accounts

DOD set aside $88.5 billion in its fiscal 2013 budget blueprint to finance combat operations in Afghanistan. "We have to pay that," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. 

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It was assumed inside the Pentagon that wartime funds budgeted under the Pentagon's overseas contingency operations account would remain untouched. 

However, officials from the Office of Management and Budget have stated repeatedly that war funds were always subject to sequesteration cuts, according to the letter of the law. 

That said, DOD officials will have to raid its training, maintenance and procurement coffers to keep war funding levels stable, according to Dempsey. 

But since those areas are already set for automatic reductions under sequestration, department officials are unsure how much more they can pull out of those accounts. 

"There's no magic in the budget at that point ... those three accounts will [already] be subjected to all of the cuts mandated by sequestration," the four-star general told Senate appropriators.  

The White House has already come under harsh scrutiny by House lawmakers for moving war funds into the sequestration plan. 

In a sharply worded letter sent to the White House on Monday, the Republican heads of the House Defense, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees lambasted Obama for reneging on promises to exempt war funding from pending budget cuts. 

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), head of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, called the decision “morally unconscionable,” demanding an explanation from President Obama on why the decision was made.

--Story was updated at 2:04pm